VALUE FOR MONEY: 6.5/10
VENUE & ATMOSPHERE: 7/10
NOTE: Chicken, lamb and beef is halal. Alcohol and pork is served on the premises. Pork is prepared separately to all halal meat.
When my work colleagues Pistachio and Almond asked to double date with ShakerFries and I, I was delighted when they chose our favourite cuisine, Caribbean food! It is at this point that I need to highlight my LOVE for Jerk chicken, rice and peas, creamy coleslaw, fried dumplings, plantain and EXTRA GRAVY! Yeah.. I go in. After falling in love with the likes of Bristol’s Afro Delight, Birmingham’s Mish Mash, and South London’s Dellys (which I previously ordered for my post Nikkah wedding food!), the bar was already set quite high, and I was yet to find a halal Caribbean eatery which matched up to my expectations in London.
We headed to Rudies in Dalston on a Thursday after work. A low lit eatery on the up-and-coming Stoke Newington Road, Rudies was buzzing, and we were glad that pistachio had pre-empted the evening dinner rush and booked a table. The decor at Rudies was imaginative, with lit palm tree pillars and a contemporary Jamaican theme running throughout the restaurant. We took a seat by the window, and so our experience began.
Having already inspected the menu for most of the afternoon from my desk, I pretended to glance at the menu in the restaurant, whilst merely ‘suggesting’ that we could all share the Ackee and Saltfish, Boston Wings and Crispy Calamari for starters. Luckily for me, everyone agreed, and I was able to sample more than I had bargained for from the starters!
The crispy calamari was by far my favourite starter. The calamari was soft and encased in a crispy, well seasoned polenta batter, which had a hugely appetising, peppery kick. For those of you wondering what polenta is, it’s boiled cornmeal, popular in northern Italy, which is, in this case, cooled until solid before being fried. The ackee and saltfish was wonderfully light and tasty, reconfirming that you can’t really go wrong with that dish if all else fails.
Now onto the Boston wings, described as lightly fried and shaken in hot sauce. There were 5/6 in a portion and the wings were extremely meaty, which was a win. Before taking a bite I could almost smell the spice radiating off the wing’s surface. I looked over to the boys who were munching away, cool as as a pair of penguins, (which I later discovered was merely a facade and that they were dying inside). With one bite into the tender chicken I felt my tastebuds burn. It felt as though someone had dropped a load of scotch bonnet peppers into the sauce. Despite me needing a fire extinguisher almost immediately, I have to say that I was still able to sample some of the most beautifully fragrant flavours through the pain, which allowed me to plough on and finish the one wing I had taken. If you do want to try these, my advice is to approach with caution. ShakerFries, Almond, Pistachio and I were all left in hot sweats and tears!
Given that Rudies pride themselves on marinating their meat for at least 24h, and only use traditional jerk drums for cooking, the lamb rump was the main choice for me when it came to the mains. Between us, ShakerFries and I shared this dish and half a jerk chicken. Pistachio and Almond opted for the curry goat and jerk chicken. The food arrived promptly.
The rump was soft and succulent throughout, cooked perfectly to a medium as requested. The meat had a melt in your mouth, buttery texture, with each bite delivering a rich and deep inherent flavour. I would go as far to say that this is one of the best lamb dishes I have ever sampled to date, and the only disappointing factor was that it had to end.
Having ordered half a jerk chicken, I was disappointed to find that the chicken was smothered in “jerk seasoning” rather than a traditional jerk gravy. Although the chicken came with a small pot of medium Jerk sauce at the side, this was sweet, cold and generally not a great accompaniment, so I settled for digging into the chicken alone. The chicken itself was tender, and was very well seasoned, with a smokey aromatic kick, so no complaints there. However, no gravy meant that overall this dish wasn’t great with rice and peas, and got a bit dry towards the end. Luckily, I had the creamy coleslaw and sweet plantain to round off my meal, so all was not lost! Overall, next to the lamb rump, the jerk chicken didn’t offer anything overwhelmingly spectacular to the palate.
I didn’t try the curry goat, but Pistachio didn’t seem overwhelmingly impressed, and said she preferred the starters and that the curry goat had more bones than meat in it. Almond…annihilated his jerk chicken before I had a chance to sample the first bite of mine…which I think sums up his experience. For drinks I had a ‘Jamaica me crazy’ mocktail with berries and almond syrup. I was pleasantly surprised, as unlike other mocktails, this wasn’t drowned in syrup, and was really refreshing (especially when my tongue caught fire from the chicken wings)!
The bill between us came to roughly £110 between us. I’ll be honest, I’m not used to paying that much for Caribbean food, especially for smaller than your average portion sizes. Then again, I usually order my Jerk chicken as a takeaway on a Saturday night whilst watching The Apprentice, so I’m not sure I can really compare that to a London Caribbean dining experience in the crazily hipster (/gentrified) area of Dalston. Whilst Rudies isn’t terribly kind on your wallet, the service was good overall, and although we were being ushered out the door towards the end, I was happy with how quickly we were served. I would return again purely for the lamb rump, and I agree Rudies has a lot to offer if you want a laid-back evening out which takes you away from the standard burger, Turkish grill and Indian curry for dinner. Overall, although the food was tasty, I can’t help but think that London has more to offer in the way of Halal Caribbean food, especially since I have had a better experience from takeaways in Birmingham. I was slightly torn with this experience, but I do recommend you try this if you want to sample some authentic halal Jamaican flavours.
Address: 50 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 7XB
Telephone: 0207 249 9930